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Rotary SMA-Sponsored Cisterns Provide Clean Drinking Water to Region’s Poor

By Tony DeCrosta

The spirit of cooperation is alive and well in Ex Hacienda de Peña Blanca, a rural village of 200 residents. Located some 45 kilometers west of San Miguel de Allende, this campo community recently celebrated the completion of 19 ferrous-cement cisterns planned for the first part of a multi-stage fresh water harvesting program.

The cistern program was managed by the Rotary Club of San Miguel de Allende Midday A.C. with the collaboration of SAPASMA. So far, 628 individual family rainwater-catchment cisterns have been built in the region.

The celebration marking the successful completion of XHPB’s new cisterns was a spirited event. Locally prepared foods, refreshing drinks, and lively music helped mark the occasion. Speeches highlighted the cooperative spirit and commitment among the project’s numerous participants.

Participating were representatives from San Miguel Midday Rotary Club, SAPASMA (represented by Luis Octavio Pérez), CEDESA, COCIRA, Secretaría de Educación Pública de Guanajuato, and more than 100 local residents and people from neighboring communities.

“Ex Hacienda de Peña Blanca’s water-harvesting project marks the first stage of our 2014-2015 program that has lasted seven years and continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to bring safe drinking water to those without it,” explained Alejandro Guerra, VP Community Services and Chair, Community Projects Committee of San Miguel’s Rotary Club. “So far, SMA Rotary Midday Club has helped 25 communities build rainwater catchment systems to provide safe drinking water to more than 4,500 rural citizens.”

Like many rural locations, XHPB had no local water source other than a much polluted, mostly dry riverbed. Residents depended on the sporadic delivery of water trucks from the municipality, which often left the community without safe water for weeks at a time.

The new water harvesting cisterns will deliver fresh, clean drinking water every single day. Fed by rainwater collected from the roofs of local dwellings, the cisterns can provide drinking water for each household for as long as a year.

While a multidisciplinary planning team designed the simple but effective water-catchment system and provided funding for building materials, the residents built the cisterns themselves.

“By constructing their own water cisterns, the residents have acquired valuable organizational and leadership skills to further ongoing development in their communities and the region at large,” noted Lee Carter, former Rotary president who directed the successful program in Pena Blanca.

In addition to having no or sporadic fresh water sources, the groundwater of San Miguel’s aquifer is seriously contaminated and dropping at a rapid and unsustainable rate. Among the most pressing concerns are heavy metals, including fluoride and arsenic, bacterial contamination, and water shortage, all of which continue to contribute to the declining health of the watershed and local residents.

The Rotary Club of San Miguel de Allende-Midday has attracted more than three-quarters of a million dollars, mostly from U.S. clubs, to build the water harvesting cisterns for campo communities. The ultimate goal is to establish the cisterns in hundreds of villages serving thousands of people.

The Rotary Foundation is the largest private charity in the world and supports education and humanitarian service programs all over the world. Rotary meets the most pressing needs of the world by working in the most efficient way to produce sustainable solutions with global impact one precious life at a time.


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